Takehiko Inoue’s manga as a living being

Takehiko Inoue is the creator of one of the biggest Shonen Jump’s hits, Slam Dunk. As he visited Barcelona, we meet for a while to talk about his work at the manga industry. Inoue keeps publishing two of his most popular comics, Vagabond and Real, sometimes even at the same time. Nobody can deny the quality of Inoue’s stories, the Japanese manga creator who is in love with Gaudí’s works. Probably Gaudí would have been a big fan of his works, too.

In your works we can choose from fantasy in Buzzer Beater to a visible human involvement in Slam Dunk or Real. We can even find some mix between fiction and the historical genre in Vagabond. What makes you feel more comfortable when you are creating manga?

I think what I like the most is doing the realistic genre. That’s what makes me feel better while doing manga since I don’t feel comfortable at fiction, I don’t really like it.

How was changing your way of working from Slam Dunk, such a popular manga in Shonen Jump, to stories like Real or Vagabond, which are published in magazines less massive?

The Shonen Jump audience has a minor age, it’s focused on young people. Real and Vagabond are intended to an adult audience. Probably there’re more people now in Japan reading these stories than the amount of old Slam Dunk readers. Also, the current trend is people buying the manga volumes directly, instead of buying the magazines every week or month.

Although has passed 25 years since Slam Dunk, we can find young people these days who continues being identified with the manga. How much can we find in Slam Dunk of your own experience as basketball player in high school?

I wanted to reflect in the manga when I was that age and I was playing basketball in high school. I wanted to express every feeling I experienced in that moment of my life: losing a basketball match, playing together on a team, winning a match, achieving goals and objectives. That’s what I wanted to put in the manga.

Did you have in mind that way of ending Slam Dunk since the beginning or you changed it during its publication?

I didn’t know its final since the very beginning, but a year before of ending Slam Dunk I had already decided Shohoku would participate in the national championships and lost in the third game.

«Manga is a living being which grows along the characters, whose final destination and evolution it’s something I never know»

After finishing Slam Dunk you published a one-shot about basketball titled Piercing, which has been considered kind of a prequel of Slam Dunk. Can we place Piercing as part of Slam Dunk’s universe?

There’s a character named Ryota in Slam Dunk, and Piercing takes place during the time he was a little boy. But I’ve never said it’s him in the story, that’s something I leave to you.

Vagabond has an astonishing speed in the drawing. What do you do to draw these fight scenes so fast and dynamic?

There is no special technique to reflect the speed, but I try to understand how the body works and where are the axis points, as well as its center of gravity… In short, if you understand how the body works, you can generate that sense of speed.

What do you use in your daily routine from the “way of the warrior” or bushido inspired by Vagabond?

Musashi does not follow the bushido, he is a unique character who goes his own way and heading. He has many experiences in his life that help him overcome every obstacle, and I think this philosophy of self-improvement could be applied in our life.

Do you have any idea when is Vagabond coming to its end?

A few years ago I said Vagabond would end soon, but… I’m sorry (laughs). Manga is a living being which grows along the characters, whose final destination and evolution it’s something I never know, so I can’t say when is going to end.

Real talks about a really hard issue. How did you get into a story of handicapped people playing wheelchair basketball?

It’s a very difficult sport which caught my attention and made some interest on me. So I decided to focus on this issue. What I want to capture and what can be learned from this, it’s the characters’ mainstay collapse when they are disabled. They’re desperate, but life goes on. They have to get up and overcome the adversity.

Sometimes you have published Vagabond and Real at the same time in Japan. Is possible to keep the quality of both manga even this way?

They’re two different works I do in parallel, and truth be said, I’m not glad with the result. It’s kind of hard since they’re two stories about very powerful issues, and I’m not really satisfied by the outcome of publish them at the same time.

«In terms of yin-yang, Slam Dunk would be the yin, the beautiful side of life, while Vagabond y Real would be the yang, the dark side»

Vagabond and Real shows how their characters learns by the hard way. Have you taken a liking to drama?

If we talk in terms of yin-yang, Slam Dunk would be the yin, the beautiful side of life. When I finished Slam Dunk I was satisfied with the result, so I wanted to try the other face, the yang, the dark side. That’s why Vagabond and Real has more pessimistic and tragic characters.

Your career is marked by a clear evolution of your drawing, as well as the instruments and ways used for yours drawings. You recently made the world’s largest washi (a typically Japanese paper) to draw “Gaudí x Takehiko Inoue — The Source of Synchronized Creativity”. How you faced this challenge?

It’s a work which has 3×10 meters and what I did was letting run the water ink. It’s not about drawing or writing, you have to make control through the water so it’ll be able to flow.

Since Buzzer Beater we haven’t seen a TV adaptation of any of your works. Would you like to transform any of your current manga into anime?

Yes, there are possibilities but I can not say anything about it. There’s no concrete plans, I do not seek such projects, but if I someone call me in and I feel comfortable with the project, I’ll give them the green light. But I’m not actively pursuing these projects.

Top photo: Aina Buforn.

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